BY NIPUN WISNAGALAGE
TEA MASTER, DONGGUAN TWG HERITAGE FOOD CO.
Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water. Due to the enormous power of the word “tea”, even other tisanes (herbal beverages) marketers have started to add this word at the end of their product. Tea was first discovered by the Chinese emperor Shen Nong about 5,000 years ago. But recent archeological findings in the eastern part of China have proved that the Chinese knew about tea’s amazing benefits even before Shen Nong’s era. From there onwards, tea has evolved into the most popular beverage in the world by providing refreshment and many health benefits for billions of tea lovers.
Meanwhile, another great beverage was discovered in Ethiopia by a goat herder around 800 AD – this being coffee. Coffee has been promoted as a lifestyle beverage. Due to technical innovations like instant coffee, vending machines, nitrogen-infused coffee, many consumers are attracted to this refreshing and stimulating beverage. Due to coffee’s popularity, tea marketers started to follow most of the technical innovations introduced by coffee marketers rather than trying to find something new and original.
In the last 50 years, convenience has become one of the main social factors when it comes to food and beverage marketing. This spurred the invention and introduction of the vending machine. Whilst the first espresso machine was introduced in France in 1822, 1946 was the year that vending machines were introduced for coffee breaks. Various types of coffee vending machines have been introduced since then. Just-add-hot-water instant coffee was first introduced in the US in 1902. This also caught the attraction of convenience-conscious consumers. Instant tea wasn’t introduced to the US until 1948.
Nitro (nitrogen-infused) beverages is also a modern technology invented to provide creaminess without milk and sugar. Nitro coffee was first introduced in 2012 and, in 2014, Nitro coffee cans were introduced by Austin, Texas’ speciality roaster, Cuvee Coffee. But this technology was only applied to tea in 2015. This might be due to lack of awareness on modern beverage trends.
All these innovations (mainly vending machine and instant coffee) made coffee readily available at different occasions allowing the consumer to consume the beverage almost everywhere (house, office, on the go, and many others) while tea was only available at the nearest retail store and few other places like hotels, tea shops, etc. The coffee industry was the first to grab this opportunity. No one can get rid of the convenience factor. Who can prepare tea or coffee in the traditional way while they are on the go? Even traditional tea drinkers have to buy some instant beverages from a convenience store or from a shop. Thanks to these innovations coffee could beat tea in certain markets.
The tea bag can also be considered as an innovation created in response to the demand for convenience. However, this was an accidental innovation that happened in the US around 1904. Despite this creation, the tea bag was not revolutionary enough to make tea readily available. Due to the availability of ready-made coffee in vending machines, coffee was still beating tea in the race.
Considering the nature of the product – coffee and small leaf black tea are quite similar – some of the innovations created by the coffee industry have been applicable to small leaf black tea. Despite this, less attention has been paid to leaf tea. Whilst the creation of the pyramid tea bag has made speciality tea popular among consumers looking for convenience, it hasn’t been enough to overtake coffee as one of the most convenient beverages.
Even though there are many product innovations which attracts tea lovers, tea marketers haven’t been able to innovate something original to appeal to, or be readily available to the consumer at every occasion. Whilst this is the case, the good thing is, even though tea marketers are quite late to respond on this issue, tea is now becoming more and more popular due to the development of vending machines, instant tea and some other innovations like nitrogen-infused tea. Therefore, let’s keep our eyes on this thrilling contest between tea and coffee for the “world’s cup”.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020